The Breasts of Jerusalem: Laetare Sunday (4th Sunday in Lent)

The fourth Sunday in Lent marks the middle of Lent, and is commonly called “Laetare Sunday” from the traditional Latin Introit: “Laetare, Jerusalem; et conventum facite omnes, qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: at exsultetis et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae. Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus,” which translates:

“Rejoice Jerusalem, and meet together all you who love her; rejoice exceedingly, you who have been in sorrow, that you may leap for joy, and be satiated with comfort from her breasts. Ps. I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord.”
The Introit recalls Zechariah 2:10 and Isaiah 66. Faithful Jerusalem is the daughter of Zion. Zion is a type of the Catholic Church and from this Holy Mother the Church, the faithful nurse like infant children. In the Introit, we are called to rejoice and find comfort at the breasts of Zion.
Notably, in the Latin missale prior to the Second Vatican Council, the epistle lesson was derived from Galatians 4. In fact, this passage is one of the few passages in the New Testament Vulgate that also uses the Latin word “laetare”:
But that Jerusalem, which is above, is free; which is our mother. For it is written: Rejoice {laetare}, thou barren, that bearest not: break forth and cry, thou that travailest not; for many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a husband.
As I noted in my book The Catholic Perspective on Paul, this passage and its surrounding context is key in understanding that Paul comprehended the true Church as a “Mother.” Paul takes the Old Testament imagery of “Mother Zion” and applies it the true Church. This is a slam dunk for Catholics who find the fulfillment of Israel in the Catholic Church (see The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity for more on this topic). Consequently, the traditional Latin prayers and readings for Laetare Sunday are a rich bouquet of Catholic ecclesiology. The Church is the archetype of  “Mother Zion” of the Old Covenant.
The traditional Gospel reading is our Lord’s feeding of the 5,000 from St John’s Gospel. Why? Christ is in the wilderness and He feeds people miraculously. The theme of feeding at the breast continues here with Christ feeding the hungry mouths of Israel. All humans have experienced hunger and we find that Christ’s feeding ministry and the Church’s feeding ministry are one and the same. To be fed by Christ is to be fed by the Church.
The true nutrition is not bread alone, but the Word of God.
Of course, all this becomes even more significant when we contemplate how these prayers and readings are smack in the middle of Lent. Lent is a time of fasting – a time of not eating. Yet here in the middle of Lent we are reminded that Christ through our Mother the Church feeds us. The image of a child nursing at the breasts of his mother and that of a miraculous multiplication of loaves should remind us that we have “food to eat, which you know not” (Jn 4:32). The life of penance, fasting, almsgiving, and prayer feeds to the soul and prepares it for the the eternal beatific vision of God in eternity. This vision of God will truly be a feast for our eyes.
Happy Laetare Sunday!
Saint Bernard, one of my favorite saints, was fed from the breast of our Immaculate Mary after he said to her, “Show thyself my mother!” Note the mystical stream of milk entering his mouth…

I’m coming back from a M.J. Sheeben Conference in Denver (Augustine Institute)

I’m sitting in the Denver airport drinking an amazing new ale – the 400 Pound Monkey Indian Pale Ale. I just attended a FANTASTIC conference on the 19th century theologian Matthias Joseph Sheeben, hosted by Nova et Vetera and the Augustine Institute.
M.J. Scheeben (1835-1888) was a German theologian who assimilated the Thomistic tradition against German Protestantism and also against what could be labeled as “proto-Modernism.” His theology centers on the mystery of nature and grace, the hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures, and the significance of the beatific vision. He is also celebrated as an important figure in Mariology.
Scheeben is especially important in the dialogue/debate surrounding Henri de Lubac’s challenge against the received scholastic tradition regarding nature and grace. My own doctoral research on this topic touches on the “problem” of the natural and supernatural end(s) of man. Consequently, I did not want to miss to this conference. Moreover, Nova et Vetera consistently presents quality scholarship. Their roster of speakers was second to none:
Dr. Bruce Marshall (SMU)
Dr. Matthew Levering (U of Dayton)
Dr. Reinhard Hütter (Duke)
Dr. Edward Sri (Augustine Institute)
Fr. Edward Oakes, SJ (U of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein)
Dr. Jared Staudt (Augustine Institute)
Fr. Thomas Joseph White, OP (Dominican House, DC)
Fr. Charles Morerod, OP (Secretary General of the International Theological Commission)
Fr. Richard Schenk, OP (Regent of Studies, Western OP Province)
Dr. Scott Hahn (Franciscan University)
I learned very much and I’m coming home with some great notes. It was a great weekend to meet new people and see old friends. Most of all, I’m grateful for the presentations and all the conversations during our breaks about nature, grace, de Lubac, Suarez, Garrigou, Aquinas, Scotus, limbo, deification, etc. It was great…but I’m tired.
  

Why 33 Is the Perfect Age…



The significance of the age of 33:
Christ died at the age of 33.
Saint Joseph was also 33 years old when he took for wife the Virgin Mary, according to visions of Mary Agreda.
Saint Ambrose baptized the to-be Saint Augustine when Augustine was 33 years old. Also, Augustine was a bishop for 33 years.
According to Mary Jane Even, the Virgin Mary would have never changed physical appearance since her 33th year on earth, her beauty being both internal and external.
“Turning Thirty-Three” can be used as a euphemism for dying, as in, “Gramps just turned thirty-three.”

Here are other “33 facts”:
If you take the numeric value of the word “Amen” in Hebrew, it adds up to 33 (AMEN: 1+13+5+14=33).
There are 33 Doctors of the Church
The Basilica of saint Peter in Rome counts 33 chapels: 29 in the Basilica itself and 4 of more in the crypt.
His Holiness John Paul I reigned as Pope for 33 days.
Each of the three sections of Dante Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) consist of 33 cantos.
Humans are born with 33 vertebrae.

Godspeed,
Taylor

Why 33 Is the Perfect Age…



The significance of the age of 33:
Christ died at the age of 33.
Saint Joseph was also 33 years old when he took for wife the Virgin Mary, according to visions of Mary Agreda.
Saint Ambrose baptized the to-be Saint Augustine when Augustine was 33 years old. Also, Augustine was a bishop for 33 years.
According to Mary Jane Even, the Virgin Mary would have never changed physical appearance since her 33th year on earth, her beauty being both internal and external.
“Turning Thirty-Three” can be used as a euphemism for dying, as in, “Gramps just turned thirty-three.”

Here are other “33 facts”:
If you take the numeric value of the word “Amen” in Hebrew, it adds up to 33 (AMEN: 1+13+5+14=33).
There are 33 Doctors of the Church
The Basilica of saint Peter in Rome counts 33 chapels: 29 in the Basilica itself and 4 of more in the crypt.
His Holiness John Paul I reigned as Pope for 33 days.
Each of the three sections of Dante Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) consist of 33 cantos.
Humans are born with 33 vertebrae.

Godspeed,
Taylor

Recommended Children’s Book: The Weight of a Mass

This book, The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith, is currently my favorite book to read to our children. I really can’t recommend it enough. It recounts how an old widow begged a baker for bread in exchange for a Mass intention. Truly beautiful and great for children…and parents. I subtly teaches the weight of just one single Mass.

Recommended Children’s Book: The Weight of a Mass

This book, The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith, is currently my favorite book to read to our children. I really can’t recommend it enough. It recounts how an old widow begged a baker for bread in exchange for a Mass intention. Truly beautiful and great for children…and parents. I subtly teaches the weight of just one single Mass.

Three Biblical Reasons Fasting and Self-Denial

Every year at the beginning of Lent, I’m encouraged and excited about it. However after a few weeks (like today), I start growing weary of the fasting and penance. So in order to remind myself of why we’re keeping Lent, here are more reflections on what Bible teaches about fasting and self-denial:

1. Fasting as a Preparation for a Divine Event
In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, self-denial is a way of preparing spiritually for something spiritually important. Of course, in Lent we are spiritually preparing the the Easter celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Moses fasted for forty days in preparation for receiving the Ten Commandments (Ex 34:28). The prophet Daniel fasted for three weeks before receiving his vision (Dan 10:2-6). Elijah the prophet fasted forty days before God spoke to him (1 Kings 19:8). And we all know that Christ our Savior fasted for forty days in preparation for His temptation by the devil and for the beginning of His ministry (Mt 4:1-11, Lk 4:1-13).

2. Fasting as Penitence
A few weeks ago we looked at the Bible verses for penitence or repentance. The fact is that we are sinners. Self-denial, then, has a twofold purpose. First, penance is a outward sign of an inward contrition. We outwardly express to God our inward sorrow for sin.

Secondly, penance or self-sacrifice is a remedy for future sin. If you teach yourself to say “no” to good things (meat, desserts, comforts, marital pleasure) then you strengthen your will to resist bad things (sin). For example, you’re not going to be able to rescue someone pinned under a car (a bad thing) if you don’t daily lift weights and build muscle (a good thing).

The concept of penance or self-sacrifice is all over the Bible. Jonah prophesied the destruction of pagan Nineveh, but the Ninevites fasted as a sign of repentance and God spared them (Jonah 3:3-9). The Jewish Day of Atonement was an annual day of obligation of fasting for all Hebrews (Numbers 29:7). In fact, whenever Israel sinned, they “humbled themselves,” wore sackcloth, put on ashes, and fasted in order to show God their sorrow for sin (cf. Judges 20:26, 1 Sam 7:6).

3. Fasting for Sorrow
In the Bible, sometimes fasting simply shows sorrow. When tragic things happen, we sometimes lose our appetite naturally. This human experience is also found in Scripture. King David fasted as a sign of grief when Abner was killed (2 Samuel 3:35). There was also a seven-day fast at the death of Saul (1 Samuel 31:13). During Holy Week, and especially on Good Friday, we should be fasting for sorrow, because the “Bridegroom has been taken away from us” (cf. (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35).

So keep up your penance and reflect on Christ as the Crucified One in order to find strength. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! We’re almost half way through Lent.